Conor O'Shea's Harlequins stay in hunt for Champions Cup qualification with narrow Sale win
Published 25/04/2015 | 16:40
Three England internationals touched down for Harlequins as they withstood a second half Sale fightback to win 25-23 and keep their European Champions Cup qualification ambitions alive.
Quins controlled the first half of this Aviva Premiership contest and deservedly took a 22-6 lead into the interval through tries from Charlie Walker, Chris Robshaw, Marland Yarde and Danny Care.
Sale's response before the break came via two Danny Cipriani penalties, but they were a shambles in the opening period.
The Sharks improved after half-time as replacement Tom Arscott touched down twice and Mark Cueto also went over, but the visitors held on for victory.
Conor O'Shea's men went into the game needing to overcome Sale but they had to do so without the services of captain and prop Joe Marler, who withdrew late on because of injury.
That setback did not seem to inhibit the visitors who, in the early stages, played with a swagger not often seen this season.
Harlequins have, at times, shown the ability which took them to the domestic title in 2012, but in the main they have flattered to deceive. Not so in the first 15 minutes here as the away team started brightly, going through the phases and causing a usually stout Sharks' defence problems.
Quins were ahead as Mike Haley's kick was charged down and left winger Charlie Walker somehow managed to pick up and score. Although Nick Evans missed the conversion, it was just reward for the visitors' fast paced opening.
Sale enjoyed supremacy at the scrum but Harlequins' cover defence was outstanding and all Sale could muster was a Cipriani penalty.
It proved to be costly as another charge-down kick allowed England skipper Robshaw to go over following good work from Nick Easter and Danny Care.
The London-based outfit then scored again when an excellent move, in which Evans' flick over his head was the highlight, ended in Yarde touching down.
Cipriani did reduce the arrears from the tee but an outstanding half of rugby for the visitors ended when Care found a gap down the blindside for the bonus-point try.
The hosts needed a response in the second period but it was Harlequins who continued to make all of the running and an Evans' three-pointer extended their advantage to 25-6.
Sale managed to halt the momentum and a series of collapsed driving mauls resulted in Dave Ward being sin-binned for the visitors.
Down to 14 men, Quins failed to hold out as Arscott weaved his way across the whitewash to reduce the arrears to 12 points.
Sharks' replacement full-back then broke through again, only to be denied by some excellent cover defence - but they were eventually rewarded for their pressure when Arscott scampered over.
Suddenly, Steve Diamond's men had the momentum and Cueto took them to within two points - but Joe Ford's two missed conversions proved costly.